For the second year in a row Derek McGarrity snatched victory from the verge of defeat on the Tour of the Sperrins Rally.
Back in 2009 he came with a late charge to steal the win on the final stage by little more than a second. On Saturday the reigning Northern Ireland champion did it again, overturning a 13-second deficit on the last of the six stages to deny long-time leader Sean Devine by three seconds.
McGarrity, who won the Circuit of Ireland for a fourth time at Easter, called it “a suicidal run” — maximum attack all the way.
He had been trailing the S11 Subaru of late entrant Devine by almost half a minute earlier in the day, explaining the problem was the suspension of his S12C Subaru. It was McGarrity’s first time using the ex-Eamonn Boland car and it running on the same suspension set-up when it was last used by the former Tarmac champion on the World championship Catalunya Rally.
“Totally unsuitable for the Sperrins,” he said.
“The car is undriveable.”
His Prodrive engineer was dispatched to round up stiffer dampers and springs which were fitted at the halfway service halt and the Subaru was transformed.
McGarrity slashed the deficit on the next two stages and then mounted a final charge that Devine was powerless to resist.
“He was just too fast for me,” admitted Devine who was making his first appearance in almost a year after a shoulder injury.
Derek McGeehan, better known as Eugene Donnelly’s engineering guru, finished third in his Toyota Corolla — with Tarmac champion Donnelly in the navigator’s seat for a change — and Camillus Bradley was best of the two-wheel-drive contenders in fourth place ahead of Seamus |O’Connell, both in Ford Escorts.
Meanwhile, in the Isle of Man, Keith Cronin retired from second place after damaging the steering of his Subaru on the penultimate stage of the Manx National Rally. Victory went to Kawasaki superbike team boss Paul Bird.
TNR Alusystems Tour of the Sperrins Rally: 1 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza) 37.20.5; 2 Sean Devine/Robert McDaid (Subaru Impreza) + 2.9 secs; 3 Derek McGeehan/Eugene Donnelly (Toyota Corolla) + 41.5 secs; 4 Camillus Bradley/Danny O'Neill (Ford Escort) + 1 min 12.7 secs; 5 Seamus O'Connell/Andrew Grennan (Ford Escort) + 1 min 39.5 secs; 6 Mark Donnelly/Stephen O'Hanlon (Mitsubishi Lancer N) + 2 mins 08.8 secs; 7 Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan (Ford Escort) + 2 mins 09.3 secs; 8 Cyril Doherty/Graham Henderson (Subaru Impreza N) + 2 mins 13.5 secs; 9 Declan McNaughton/Sean Hayde (Ford Escort) + 2 mins 15.4 secs; 10 George Robinson/Tommy Speers (Subaru Impreza) + 2 mins 29.0 secs.